The Comey Wars: it’s About Trump’s Ego and Fear of His Own Illegitimacy
Greg Sargent puts together a pretty good reconstruction of how it went down, yesterday:
“For all the talk about the unusual nature of President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey, it actually fits comfortably into a well-established pattern that has defined this presidency from its very first day. Trump makes an emotional, impulsive assertion or decision — and then his underlings are forced into a wild scramble to produce a rationale or justification for it.”
“In this pattern, the decision or assertion often originated in the same place — deep in the recesses of Trump’s entangled megalomania and sneaking dread of the illegitimacy of his presidency. And the Comey firing, it turns out, may not be an exception to this.”
“Mr. Comey’s fate was sealed by his latest testimony about the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election and the Clinton email inquiry. Mr. Trump burned as he watched, convinced that Mr. Comey was grandstanding. He was particularly irked when Mr. Comey said he was “mildly nauseous” to think that his handling of the email case had influenced the election, which Mr. Trump took to demean his own role in history.”
This is a key point. Yes, Trump fired Comey because of his lack of ‘loyalty’ and his refusal to soft pedal the Russia probe as well as his refusal to go after leaks. This was the same thing we had with Nixon. Nixon wanted J. Edgar Hoover to go after leaks-particularly Ellsberg-and despite Hoover’s record, refused to comply with Nixon on this.
Of course, unlike Trump, Nixon knew you don’t fire the FBI Director-particularly Hoover; he knows too much.
But the proximate immediate cause that got under Trump’s skin was: Comey admitting to the Comey effect.
“The common thread here is the constant need to return to the meaning of the election. The Comey letter to Congress about Clinton’s newly discovered emails is widely believed to have helped Trump win; Comey tacitly conceded that this might be true. The Russia probe continues to feed the sense that a foreign power helped tip the election to him; Comey won’t make it disappear. And, of course, there are lingering questions around the fact that Trump fired Comey right after he asked for moreresources to prosecute that investigation, which of course would only further feed the sense that the Russian intervention mattered to the outcome.”
“This has happened again and again, beginning literally on Day One of the Trump presidency. Trump was enraged by the media’s accurate reporting of his relatively small inaugural crowd size, which immediately broadcast with terrifying vividness that he lacked popular support. So administration officials had to scramble to find photographic “evidence” that he was right, while others attacked the media for allegedly obscuring the truth. Trump also falsely claimed based on conservative media that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones, to suggest that he, too, had been targeted by illicit efforts to undermine him during the election. That forced the White House counsel to go hunting for “evidence” of this, and when that failed, the White House called on Congress to investigate it (i.e., pretend it was real).”
Very good point by Sargent. Because this is all implicitly about Trump’s very legitimacy. And this keeps getting ratcheted up. Comey piqued him again with the story this NYT piece this morning-likely with the former director’s authorization-that Comey never begged Trump to eat dinner with him and vow a loyalty oath and tell him the Russia story is fake news.
To the contrary-Comey never wanted to eat dinner with him at all and basically had his hand forced.
So Trump’s vanity is again piqued as his legitimacy becomes further open to doubt.
But every time Trump feels scorned he makes things even worse. His response to the Comey NYT piece is to claim that he taped Comey without his knowledge. Even Nixon knew he didn’t want the public to know about the Nixon tapes.
Tim Weiner-who’s written about the FBI, the CIA, and Nixon-has been back in demand lately with the clear parallels.
His Nixon book is of great interest. First of all, Trump is nuts to declare war on the FBI-which is how they take the Comey firing. As Weiner says, the FBI took down Nixon.
“Based largely on documents declassified only in the last few years, One Man Against the World paints a devastating portrait of a tortured yet brilliant man who led the country largely according to a deep-seated insecurity and distrust of not only his cabinet and congress, but the American population at large. In riveting, tick-tock prose, Weiner illuminates how the Vietnam War and the Watergate controversy that brought about Nixon’s demise were inextricably linked. From the hail of garbage and curses that awaited Nixon upon his arrival at the White House, when he became the president of a nation as deeply divided as it had been since the end of the Civil War, to the unprecedented action Nixon took against American citizens, who he considered as traitorous as the army of North Vietnam, to the infamous break-in and the tapes that bear remarkable record of the most intimate and damning conversations between the president and his confidantes, Weiner narrates the history of Nixon’s anguished presidency in fascinating and fresh detail.”
“A crucial new look at the greatest political suicide in history, One Man Against the World leaves us not only with new insight into this tumultuous period, but also into the motivations and demons of an American president who saw enemies everywhere, and, thinking the world was against him, undermined the foundations of the country he had hoped to lead.”
A conjecture of Weiner’s is that Nixon was brilliant but insecure and he slowly learns the truth: that he did not belong in the WH.
With Trump everything is accelerated. But this is a great point by Greg Sargent. Understand everything Trump does as a anxiety formation against the truth of his own dubious legitimacy.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.